by Jack Mayne A study of downtown parking says the city has plenty of it â€“ and is nowhere near the woes of such places in Seattle as Ballard and Capitol Hill â€“ but still itâ€™s a hot button issue for a citizen who thinks the city overcharges business owners if they donâ€™t have enough parking to satisfy city demands. Monday night (March 28) was the Burien City Councilâ€™s monthly study session, where legislation and issues are not passed but simply looked at in depthâ€¦but it took the seven members over three and one-half hours to accomplish. There were some dramatic moments when a local entrepreneur roiled up the waters over the long-established but apparently little used in-lieu payment over parking spaces. Fix the barrier Resident John White said he â€œjust wanted to make a quick comment about â€¦ about what you guys can do to help small business.â€ He said he has â€œheard that that itâ€™s up to you guys (Councilmembers)â€ to â€œmaybe fix those entry barriers.â€ [caption id="attachment_97993" align="alignright" width="250"] John White[/caption] White said many small businesses have tried to expand in Burien, but had run into the cityâ€™s parking ordinance that requires a specific number of parking spaces for each business. If their business does not have enough spaces to meet the city ordinance, they must pay the city a fee he considers exorbitant. â€œIn the entire history of that program, not one small business has been able to do it. Not one,â€ White said, â€œand I am here to tell you it has been hurting small business and I am hoping that the City Councilmembers who have the power to take a look at this fee in lieu of this $10,000 ghost parking fee and get rid of it.â€ The only payment was because of parking changes at the Town Square building next to City Hall. A restaurant owner said renovations in his existing Mediterranean restaurant were stymied by the parking ordinance. Dan Trimble, Burienâ€™s Economic Development Manager, said $158,000 was collected a decade ago due to parking area changes at the next-door Burien Town Square. The funds are in a city account awaiting a decision on how the money is spent. City Manager Kamuron Gurol said, â€œwe deal with a lot of businesses here and the vast majority donâ€™t have problems with parking. We have these individual cases that do. Where they do have a problem, it’s a big deal for that business.â€ Gurol said he would hesitate for the Council to get into the problems of permits because of the line between policy from the Council and administration by the city staff. Councilmember Debi Wagner wanted to know how much revenue the city collected for the in-lieu of parking spaces ordinance. Wagner said she wanted to end the in-lieu parking fee and later in the meeting said she wanted something more democratic and fair. Fine money on hold â€œMany of us want to know how we can help small businesses,â€ Councilmember Nancy Tosta said. â€œIt is more proactive. What could we be doing that is different rather than being told that multiple small businesses are finding it hard to expand and do business here?â€ Of Whiteâ€™s complaint, Tosta said, â€œI feel this needs some attention, we have people in this community that are concerned about it and it is our job as a Council to think about how to meet the goals that many people in this community would like to see.â€ To Gurol, Tosta said, â€œYou told us you could come and tell us how you currently look at it, but I think what many of us are interested in looking at is how we help small business succeed â€¦â€ Gurol responded that â€œcertain individuals have commanded all of our attentionâ€ adding he and the staff have looked at Whiteâ€™s â€œindividual situationâ€ of wanting to add a small piano bar to a SW152 Street restaurant and there are many other â€œindividual situations we have worked hard to resolve.â€ â€œWorking with this applicant (White) has been frustrating for both sides,â€ the city manager said, but is not the situation that every business undergoes. White returned to the microphone. â€œI am shocked and appalled that our city manager is emotional over this thing because when we were told that we had to pay $160,000 for 16 stalls I went to the city manager and I said, â€˜what is up with this policy?â€™ â€œHe told me that he had 20 examples of this shared parking agreement and up to 50 in his records,â€ White said. â€œI looked him in the eye and said, â€˜I donâ€™t believe any citizen in paying $7,000 a stall and he said there is 20 and Iâ€™ve got 50, So I requested those documents under the freedom of information act and I got zero â€“ not one small business. In fact there is only one that has ever paid â€¦â€ â€œWhen he says heâ€™s emotional, Iâ€™ve been lied to and told story after story,â€ White said. â€œNot one penny has been generated to provide parking spaces in this town.â€ He suggested that the number of vacant business vacancies in the city is because of such actions. Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she supported the city staff for â€œdoing a wonderful jobâ€ enforcing the city statutes and the Council is taking time to see if changes are necessary. Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said the Council should look at the various studies and examinations of city policies before deciding how to or if to make changes. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, via telephone, said the city should be sure the policies were equally applied. City parking study A report by Kendra Breiland, operations manager for Fehr and Peersâ€™s Seattle office, gave the Council a view of an ongoing parking study to identify â€œcurrent on-and-off street parking supply and demand, core parking challenges, and strategies and tools to reduce parking barriers to revitalization.â€ It is an update of a 2006 downtown parking study, she said. New research indicates that there is still a lot of parking availability in downtown and that parking is at a 50 percent use figure, but not to the 90 percent of 100 percent level of Capitol Hill or Ballard, said Breiland. Part of keeping the levels at an acceptable level might require reviewing the cityâ€™s parking code which partly is criticized by John White and to better use the existing parking areas, even increasing the two hour limits to three or more hours so that people can accomplish a variety of activities. She said the study is not to the point of firm recommendations. Mayor and Deputy Mayor leave At 10 p.m. in the meeting, Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said they had other commitments and had to leave. Councilmember Nancy Tosta took over the chair. Moments later, despite a request from the departing Mayor to not make motions, Councilmember Debi Wagner moved to delete the parking in-lieu fees ordinance objected to by White. Wagner said the fee has resulted in only one payment of $158,000 over 10 years ago and that it seemed â€œarbitrary and capricious to collect it if we donâ€™t do it regularlyâ€ and ask for consideration of a â€œmore democraticâ€ fee later. Councilmember Austin Bell said he favored removing the fees but was not happy with the timing of the motion, after opponents Krakowiak and Edgar were gone. Then Councilmember Steve Armstrong said he agreed to Wagnerâ€™s objective, but noted it was in the middle of a presentation. Wagnerâ€™s motion was tabled and held for a future meeting on a vote of 4 to 1. Kendra Breiland then said her companyâ€™s study would consider the in-lieu payment for needed parking and now to resolve it with the studyâ€™s indication of current excess parking. [caption id="attachment_97994" align="alignleft" width="225"] Chris Craig and Dan Trimble[/caption] Hotel in Burien? Earlier in the marathon meeting, Chris Craig, the cityâ€™s economic development specialist, outlined a search for a possible hotel development in Burien. He said the first part was a study by a consultant on an appropriate kind and size of a potential hotel, then to find â€œproven hotel developers/investorsâ€ that are compatible to Burien and finally to attract a hotel that meets â€œcommunity needs.â€ Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said with the airport expansion has come several hoteliers looking for expanding or building new hotels to add to the many in SeaTac, and asked so how Burien can prove it is worthy of hotel expansion where there are no hotels now. That is what the studies are for, he was told by Craig and Dan Trimble. Just because there are plans by current developers, does not mean there will be hotels built or expanded. Trimble said that Burien must prove â€œwe can rent rooms on this side of the airport,â€ and when that is done, there may be more hotels that will located in the city. City business study Craig told the study session that the goals of the business retention and expansion was to gather business and market intelligence, build and strengthen relationships with the business community and to address individual business concerns. Craig said so far during the first quarter of this year, he has made 102 business visits, each that averaged 15 to 20 minutes in length, â€œbut sometimes those conversations are over an hour.â€ Craig followed up with the business managements and made over 150 new contacts. His visits were â€œall over the city,â€ with 10 north of First Avenue and 10 along Ambaum, with the majority on SW 152nd. Businesses on SW 152nd and SW 153rd were just a block away but often had totally different concerns. The subject most often expressed in the downtown areas was about â€œnuisance behaviorâ€ including people acting aggressively toward their customers or trespassing or loitering on their property and leaving drug paraphernalia behind. Another major concern expressed to Craig was property crime, which included vandalism. Businesses wanted to get more potential consumers into the business areas of the city, he said. Craig said he met with Discover Burien and with Burien Police to explore solutions, and he noted that Capt. Bryon Howard said business owners should call to tell police of problems or trends. On the positive side, he said businesses are encouraged that the city is actively reaching out to people and that â€œyou would not get this type of service in Seattle.â€]]>
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